Theme: Metaphors of Salvation
Leading Question: Is it safe to say out loud that different people will view the cross quite differently because of their personal experience?
In the New Testament, the story of the cross yields a rich diversity of metaphors as the various writers struggle to share the power and beauty of the Gospel message. Given that diversity, it is important to recognize that not all metaphors will speak with equal power to every person. In that connection the Ellen White”s “diversity” quotation, cited in lesson 4, is worth citing again:
Every association of life calls for the exercise of self-control, forbearance, and sympathy. We differ so widely in disposition, habits, education, that our ways of looking at things vary. We judge differently. Our understanding of truth, our ideas in regard to the conduct of life, are not in all respects the same. There are no two whose experience is alike in every particular. The trials of one are not the trials of another. The duties that one finds light are to another most difficult and perplexing.
So frail, so ignorant, so liable to misconception is human nature, that each should be careful in the estimate he places upon another. We little know the bearing of our acts upon the experience of others. What we do or say may seem to us of little moment, when, could our eyes be opened, we should see that upon it depended the most important results for good or for evil. (MH 483)
The following metaphors are prominent in the New Testament. It could be a rich experience for a Sabbath School group simply to share their experiences in the light of the different metaphors.
A. Slavery-Redemption: Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 1:18-19. A key word in this economic metaphor is “ransom.” God has “ransomed” us, redeemed us from our enslavement to sin.
B. Condemnation-Justification: Rom 3:19-24. In the “objective” view of the atonement this legal metaphor is dominant: the condemned are set free in Jesus, declared right with God.
C. Alienation-Reconciliation: 2 Cor 5:18-21. This metaphor from the world of interpersonal relations speaks to the healing between estranged parties.
D. Wrath-Propitiation/Expiation: Rom 3:25-26, in the context of Rom 1-3. This metaphor is too strong for some, suggesting an offended deity who reluctantly accepts his erring children back into the fold. But it is a biblical metaphor and illustrates the kinds of emotions and issues that arise when one considers the relationship between a holy God, an offended God, and a rebellious creation. The sting of the metaphor vanishes when one recognizes that it is God who provides the propitiation, the expiation that dissolves the divine wrath.
E. Defilement-Cleansing: 1 John 1:5-9. While overly vivid for some, the picture of Jesus” “cleansing blood” is still powerful and effective for many.
F. Lost-Found: Luke 15. All three stories in Luke 15 use this powerful metaphor: the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost boy. The “subjective” atonement (John 14-17) develops this metaphor within a family setting (rather than a courtroom). The waiting Father is one of the most moving of New Testament images – if one has a positive Father image with which one can identify.
G. Love: 1 John 4:7-11. “Through love become slaves to one another,” argues Paul (Gal 5:13). In a sense, love is the power behind all the metaphors. “For God so loved the world….” (John 3:16).